As early as 1978, Hunter S. Thompson knew how he wanted to go out: blasted from a cannon. When the writer died in 2005, his friend Johnny Depp made it happen.
A 153-foot tower was erected at Thompson’s farm in Colorado to house the cannon. Originally designed by Thompson in the 70s, the tower was shaped like a fist with two thumbs clutching a peyote button — a symbol of gonzo journalism. The 1969 anthem “Spirit in the Sky” played over a stereo system before Thompson’s ashes were blasted from the cannon. The big boom was followed by fireworks and lots of whiskey on the rocks, as per the author’s request.
Not ones to go quietly, these six men of stature opted for send-offs that included cannons, capes, and a 9-foot granite piano.
Puff, Puff, Passed On
When asked in a 1994 interview where he saw himself in 10 years, Tupac Shakur answered that worst case scenario he’d be “sprinkled in ashes, smoked up by [his] homies.” (He made a similar statement in his “Black Jesus” lyrics.) Just two years later, the rapper was fatally shot in a drive-by, and, true to Shakur’s wishes, members of his crew Outlawz smoked their fallen leader’s ashes in a blunt. “We twisted up some of that great grandaddy California kush and mixed the big homie with it,” said Outlawz member Young Noble.
Forever in Flight
In 2007, thousands of fans gathered in Butte, Montana, to say so long to daredevil Evel Knievel. Actor Matthew McConaughey delivered the eulogy, saying, “He’s forever in flight now. He doesn’t have to come back down; he doesn’t have to land.” Knievel was buried in a white leather jacket with blue and red trim. The funeral’s playlist included country music and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
The King of Pop’s Final Bow
In addition to the 17,500 fans who won tickets via lottery to the event held at the Staples Center in LA, many famous friends attended Michael Jackson’s memorial service: Mariah Carey and Usher sang; Queen Latifah read a poem written by Maya Angelou for the occasion; and Berry Gordy of Motown Records gave the eulogy.
Macaulay Culkin, Liz Taylor, Smokey Robinson, and Lisa Marie Presley were just some of the other stars there to bid farewell to the King of Pop. The security detail for the event was the largest planned since the 1984 Olympics.
Jackson was buried in a gold-plated, solid-bronze casket lined with blue velvet. His burial garments cost $35,000, and $16,000 was spent on flowers.
Goodbye to the Godfather
James Brown always loved an encore, so it was only fitting that when the singer passed away in 2006, he was mourned at not one, but three separate funeral services — and he wore a different outfit to each one. His first tribute was at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Then he had his “homecoming” in Augusta, Georgia, where his famous cape was laid across his casket before a crowd of 8,000. The third memorial was a private service for family and close friends. Only then was the Hardest Working Man in Show Business laid to rest.
One Hell of a Man
Jimmy Dean maybe more famous to many for his breakfast sausages than his country career — left very specific instructions for his big sleep. He asked to be buried in a $350,000, 9-foot long, granite piano mausoleum inscribed with the words “Here lies one hell of a man.” His widow carried out his wishes, and Dean’s piano tomb stands on the banks of the James River in Virginia.